After a bandh was observed in Bhiwandi on Thursday following an objectionable Facebook post, all shops remained open on Friday. However, tension still prevailed in the town, which has a history of communal clashes.
The Facebook issue has put a shadow on the Shivaji Maharaj Jayanti celebration, which was to take place on March 29 and 30. Fearing further conflict, the police have increased the security cover in the town.
During the Friday evening prayer across all mosques in Bhiwandi, an appeal was made to maintain peace. The police also asked for co-operation to uphold law and order in the city.
According to the police, the pictures posted on Facebook, which hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims, were first seen by some local residents of Rabodi in Thane on Wednesday.
The news reached Bhiwandi, Padgha and other nearby areas by Wednesday night and hundreds of people staged a protest rally and blocked the Mumbai-Nashik Highway for three hours at the Padgha Toll Plaza.
When the police tried to assure the crowd that strong action will be taken against miscreants, the crowd started pelting the cops with stones, injuring more than 20 policemen. The police had to resort to mild lathicharge to disperse the mob and clear the national highway. On Thursday, the Muslim community called a bandh, which was observed in Padgha and villages in Borivli.
Bhiwandi was brought to a complete standstill as Hindu businessmen too voluntarily supported the bandh and pulled down the shutter of their shops.
“The police do not want any anti-social element to take advantage of this situation and disturb the harmony between the Hindu-Muslim communities. So, we have put up extra security cover here,” said DCP MK Bhosale, Bhiwandi.
“More than 2,500 policemen are posted on the streets. We have also put up CCTV cameras at prime spots and will keep an aerial watch from buildings during the celebration. Bhiwandi is a sensitive city and we do not want to take any chances,” he added.